On new SBEC rules for emergency teacher certification in Texas

by Wm. Robert Johnston
13 November 2003

Dear Editor,

Graves' comparison of teachers to doctors or CPAs is logically flawed. Certification procedures for these latter professions are more substantive. After all, if a doctor or CPA does you harm, you have legal recourse. Children harmed by inept teaching from traditionally certified teachers have no such recourse and often no access to competing services.

But a greater flaw in Graves' position is her implied claim that ability to teach really depends on having been through existing education training. I have experienced education courses for teacher certification. While some were helpful in dealing with bureaucratic requirements, they were mostly irrelevant to real teaching.

The teacher's unions are strongly opposing these rules perhaps because it undermines their claim that only certified teachers, not the unannointed, know how to teach. The public education establishment must maintain the facade that they and they alone can teach. How else can they deflect criticism of worsening student performance with demands for more and more money, the whole time opposing higher content area standards for teachers and competition from home schools or voucher programs?

Suppose the SBEC allows some individuals, experts in their subject areas, to teach. Is this really worse than leaving students in overcrowded classrooms with teachers that may or may not know the subject but sure know the educational terminology?

Would this be experimenting with our children? Perhaps. But public education has long done this, with group learning, positive discipline, inclusion, whole-language learning, bilingual education, multiculturalism, moral relativism, sex education, and more. There are good and necessary elements in some of these practices. But the educational establishment has a long record of doing grave harm, academically and otherwise, under the guise of good intentions and their supposedly superior understanding of the "complexities of teaching".

The SBEC rules call for evaluating the effectiveness of emergency certified teachers, allowing a comparison to traditional certification. I say try it.

(printed in The Brownsville Herald, 21 November 2003.)

© 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 23 November 2003.
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